CALL TO ACTION
At the core of the Lehigh Valley’s success is the ability to agree to a common set of ideals that serve as a foundation for management, preservation and growth of the region. This is reflected in the Lehigh Valley’s ability to overcome challenges like the decline in the demand for slate and closing of Bethlehem Steel. We have always come together during times of change—positive, negative and everything in between. We have evolved our organizational and management structures to adapt to changing needs. We’ve done it through the formation of organizations like the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority and Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. We’ve enhanced it with the development of multi-municipal partnerships like the Nazareth Area Council of Governments and Colonial Regional Police. We’ve built cross-industry partnerships through entities like the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley and Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, and we’ve marketed our many assets through Discover Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.
In the face of so many future forces, whether it’s globalization, the shared economy, energy diversification, living longer, or substantial population growth, we will do what we’ve always done: Rise to the challenge, innovate, adapt, evolve and succeed. We are a can do entrepreneurial region that values our people, families, communities, assets, environment, businesses, parks and recreation, farming and farmland, housing, buildings, educational and training institutions, land, transportation systems and connectivity. We value our history, too, and we don’t revise it. We own it. We understand it. We accept that we do not need to destroy the past because it is already gone, just as we understand that the destruction of the past is one of the greatest of crimes.
We are substantive and never build on the passing novelty that plagues the fading regional beauties in other places. We are well-researched and strategic in our thinking and actions. Who we are and what we are is our single strongest asset. We compete in a global marketplace well because of it. We manage our communities well because of it. We run our businesses well because of it. We are well-positioned for the future because of it. We can never lose sight of it, and this plan is key to the continued realization of our collective, collaborative, unified future.
The goals, policies and actions in FutureLV: The Regional Plan are built from a foundation of those ideals. It is a blueprint for a vibrant, sustainable, resilient and forward-moving region. The most successful regions in the US and World are built on collaboration, partnerships and a collective understanding that everyone is an owner. Our quality of life, culture and identity as the Lehigh Valley is challenged by the rapid population growth, explosion of transportation-based businesses and changes in technology and consumer preference, among other things. These factors will continue to grow, underpinning the need for change and asset management to become primary, overarching strategies to building and evolving the region to rise above the challenges and be prepared for a very advanced, technology-based economy and society. This starts with what designer, planner and educator, Bruce Mau, calls “fact-based optimism,” where we approach our current and future conditions from a perspective of possibility. We must start now. We must begin together. We must be leaders. We must create the Future Lehigh Valley we want and need. We are all owners.
WE ARE THE
FUTURE LEHIGH VALLEY
The Lehigh Valley is extremely successful, as evidenced by nearly “full employment”, development activity, city and borough revitalization and the continued desire for people to move to the region. Local leaders are advancing policy and investment around economic mobility, technology, housing attainability, rethinking infrastructure systems, climate change, resiliency, workforce training and education, among other key issues. The entire region is diligently preparing for the future.
However, no public, private or government entity can rise to the social, technological, environmental, economic, educational, health, equity or infrastructure changes, challenges or even opportunities on their own.
Most challenges, after all, span multiple jurisdictions. Carbon emissions don’t stop at city borders. Workers look for housing and jobs, consumers buy groceries and other goods, and parents seek out schools for their children across city, county and even state lines. Cities, suburbs and rural communities must work together to tackle the major issues of our time. The best local climate change plans will reflect regional commuting patterns and industry activities, just as the most effective economic strategies will connect neighborhoods to broader regional opportunities.
A unified voice is critical to state and federal governments and between local and county entities that supports revenue creation and innovative finance. Without a single message, the Lehigh Valley may miss out on vital opportunities to grow our economy, raise new revenue, pursue regulatory reforms and co-invest in shared regional priorities. Regional collaborations do already exist, but today’s economic and political realities demand more if our region is to remain an attractive and even envied place to live, work and play.
Thinking and acting regionally is key to our success, but notoriously difficult. Our region is not a single government, but instead is governed by dozens of elected officials, chief executive officers, philanthropists, educators, skills providers, neighborhood groups and other civic leaders, each of whom has different self-interests and priorities. Gathering these leaders together to agree on shared challenges and potential solutions—with action—requires significant time and resources.
Ultimately, successful regional initiatives carry political risk, can require millions of dollars of public and private funds and take years, or even decades to fully implement. Yet the limits of single-jurisdiction approaches can be even more expensive.
Five communities each owning $1 million ladder trucks within a ten-minute fire response radius is an example of inefficiency. With resources scarce, neighboring communities can strike agreements to collectively provide for police, fire and other critical services.
Without regional partnerships, individual municipal priorities can easily be dismissed by state and federal governments. The over $500 million in road and bridge funding recently cut by Pennsylvania is an example where municipal and county governments, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC), Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority and Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority can rally around the restoration and increase of critical transportation resources. But a single, organized message to Pennsylvania Legislators must be sent and reinforced to resolve the long-term $4 billion transportation funding shortage.
Regional collaborations that will guide the Lehigh Valley through the 21st century will need to:
When the LVPC asked a roundtable of the region’s Chief Executive Officers what the biggest threat to the region and their businesses is overall, there was resounding agreement that the inequitable educational system and a declining civic infrastructure were the top two concerns. These certainly are harder challenges and may be place-specific, but the larger impact is on a much greater scale. Neighborhood-level initiatives can work simultaneously with regional programs and businesses to build a healthier, prepared workforce living in safe and supported communities.
Overcoming challenges is not easy, quick or glamorous and requires compound-complex thinking and cross-sector collaborations. However, regional leaders of all types have set high expectations. There’s no reason why, through regional collaboration, we can’t exceed them—together.
LVPC + LVTS ROLE IN IMPLEMENTATION
Role of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and Lehigh Valley Transportation Study in Implementation
The LVPC has a leadership role in the implementation of goals, policies and actions of FutureLV: The Regional Plan. However, the plan is not a strategic organizational plan for the LVPC or the LVTS alone, but instead is a shared regional vision and global regulatory and policy guide for the entire Lehigh Valley community. The plan is for the region and by the region, as reflected in broad public participation through the entire plan development process.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has several key roles in the implementation of FutureLV: The Regional Plan, including but not limited to:
The Lehigh Valley Transportation Study serves as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the region and has a variety of transportation planning and investment responsibilities, including but not limited to:
SUBDIVISION AND LAND DEVELOPMENT
One of the key county planning responsibilities granted by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code is to provide guidance to the region on the potential impacts of proposed subdivision and land development projects, municipal, school district and utility plans, maps, ordinances and associated impact fees.
Municipal governments in Pennsylvania have the “final say” on all subdivision and land development activities, zoning matters and local comprehensive and specific plans. The important role that the LVPC plays comes from the fact that the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code does not give authority to any local government to act upon a development in a neighboring community. In cases where a property boundary extends across municipal borders, each community acts on the basis of its own regulations. In cases where municipalities have agreed to create and implement a multi-municipal plan, the local governments are authorized to coordinate at a minimum and even create a single zoning ordinance. Municipal and multi-municipal plans must be consistent with FutureLV: The Regional Plan. The interrelationships and cooperation outlined in the state statute between the LVPC and local governments help shape optimal outcomes for the region.
The LVPC utilizes FutureLV: The Regional Plan as well as statistics, analyses, goals, objectives, policies and specific plans for the Commission and Lehigh and Northampton counties to assess the regional impact of proposed physical, policy and regulatory changes to the Lehigh Valley.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission reviews proposals and comments on the following:
Several key planning initiatives have been identified for research and development, monitoring or updating specific projects or plans. These ideas are key to implementing FutureLV: The Regional Plan and should be considered for LVPC and LVTS planning programs.
GUIDING ORDERLY GROWTH, DEVELOPMENT AND REDEVELOPMENT
Overall, the goal of the LVPC, counties and local governments is to minimize negative impacts associated with subdivisions, land developments and the regulatory environment in general. Additionally, a clear historic, current and future commitment to the renewal, revitalization and redevelopment of communities, groups of parcels, specific tracts of land and infrastructure is critical to the health, safety and public welfare of the region. This latter commitment to the reuse and repurposing of developed property is key to meeting all of the goals in FutureLV: The Regional Plan.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission will:
Throughout the process, a myriad of organizations, documents, plans and other resources provided the data and information that went into developing FutureLV: The Regional Plan. They include:
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and Lehigh Valley Transportation Study plans, reports and analyses:
Climate + Energy Element (2014)
Comprehensive Plan The Lehigh Valley…2030 (2005)
Green Infrastructure Guidelines (2017)
Lehigh County Livable Landscapes (2018)
Lehigh Valley Hazard Mitigation Plan (2018)
Lehigh Valley Return on Environment (2014)
Lehigh Valley Equity Analysis (2018)
Northampton County Livable Landscapes (2016)
Monocacy Creek Watershed Act 167 Stormwater Management Plan (2018)
MoveLV: Lehigh Valley Regional Freight Plan (2015)
MoveLV: Long Range Transportation Plan (2015)
Southwestern Lehigh County Comprehensive Plan (2017)
Traffic Safety Plan (2016)
Transportation Improvement Program (2019-2022)
WalkLV: Regional Sidewalk Inventory (2016)
Walk/RollLV: Active Transportation Plan (2019)
Other plans and resources:
American Planning Association
Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations
Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials
Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access
Federal Highway Administration
Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce
Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority
Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority
Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Governor’s Center for Local Government Services
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency
National Association of City Transportation Officials
United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s Age-Friendly Community Forum
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
US Bureau of Labor Statistics
US Census Bureau
US Department of Agriculture
US Department of Commerce
US Department of Transportation
University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
Workforce Board Lehigh Valley
More than two years in the making, this document has been the collaboration of dozens of government and community organizations, and the thousands of people who attended the more than 240 public meetings and events that went into creating a vision for the region’s future. FutureLV: The Regional Plan was open for formal public review and comment August 9 through September 23, 2019. Data, plan maps and additional resources utilized to create this plan are available at: